Both covers are bloodless. That must have been deliberate.
My first take on the second cover was it looks like Wolverine is just frightening the Hellfire man to the right. But that's a mistake: you're supposed to infer the falling guy on the right has been slashed open and the same thing has just happened to the standing guy. The expression of the guy on the left shows he, too, is facing mortality. So it's actually a subtly ghastly cover.
IMHO, this was when Wolverine became WOLVERINE! Before it could be argued that he was not as interesting as Nightcrawler or Phoenix but now he started to become the focal point of the book as seen by #139.
In #134's case I find the new cover much more powerful. In #135's the new cover strikes me as bland. The original cover is a homage to #56's, of course.
COVER COMPARISON: I really HATE those banner ads Marvel ran on their covers a time or two in the ‘80s. Who thought that was a good idea? Obviously I prefer new one, also by Byrne. Here’s another cover (a wraparound) of the same scene by John Romita, Jr. and Al Williamson.X-MEN #137: The conclusion to the “Dark Phoenix Saga.”
COVER: A wraparound with the other X-Men (including Marvel Girl) on the back.
I was not reading X-Men in 1980. This may have been the first time I read #137 (unless I had already picked it up as a backissue by this time). This one-shot presents the issues original five-page ending, from before EiC Jim Shooter insisted on a new six-page sequence (plus two panels of altered dialogue) with a revised ending in which Jean Grey must pay for the genocide perpetrated by Dark Phoenix. PERSONAL NOTE: Whenever this story is reprinted in a collection which includes #137, I always feel it’s kind of a rip-off (to make us pay for the first part of the story twice).
The one-shot also includes “The Dark Phoenix Tapes,” a round table discussion of the events surrounding the re-write. I read it once when it originally came out, and a second time last night. I really got a lot more out of it my second time through, 35 years later, I must say. It really presents a complete version of events, with each person involved recalling his or her piece of it. Here’s the gist…
Chris Claremont, John Byrne and editor Roger Stern approached Jim Shooter with an idea for a story in which Phoenix turns evil, and Shooter approved it. John Byrne disliked the character Phoenix, but loved Jean Grey. Several issues into the arc, Byrne started thinking in terms of “cosmic possession” rather than Jean Grey herself actually turning evil, but Chris Claremont had an idea in mind for #150 that Magneto would find out about Dark Phoenix and somehow manage to “re-villainize” her.
It was Claremont who plotted that Dark Phoenix consumes a sun, but it was Byrne who, during the pencil stage, added the detail about the D’Bari planet being destroyed. By the time it saw publication, Jim Salicrup was editor. He was thinking along the lines of possession, too. He even mentioned The Exorcist, saying that when Regan MacNeil was eventually exorcized, no one said, “Let’s kill that murderous little girl.” At that point, the ending would have given Jean a “mutant lobotomy” in which the Phoenix entity was removed from her body. This wasn’t the story Shooter had approved, and by the time it was finished, he required that some changes be made.
What I find interesting is that Byrne clearly already had the idea to bring back Jean Grey which would eventually see print in Fantastic Four #286. When the subject of separating Phoenix from Jean Grey came up, here is what was said…
JOHN: I have a way to do that. We’ll talk.
CHRIS: A little late now!
MARVEL AND DC PRESENT:
If Phoenix: The Untold Story (1984) may have been the first time I read about the “Death of Phoenix” story, then Marvel and DC Present (1982), by Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson, was definitely the first time I encountered Darkseid. I know for a fact the first “New Gods” I read (apart from this one shot) was the 1985 reprint series. That opened the Kirby floodgates for me, but at this time I had only just recently discovered Teen Titans (and re-discovered X-Men). To be perfectly honest, I didn’t get much out of it at the time, but I tend to re-read it every time I re-read X-Men or Teen Titans or New Gods. Although it takes place in a universe in which both teams co-exist, I really appreciate it now.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
CXM #42: Continued from last issue, another story of Scott Summers’ childhood and Mr. Sinister.
X-MEN ANNUAL #4:
X-Men Annual #4 fits into continuity here, but it’s not a particularly good fit, IMO. Cyclops is out and Kitty is in, but #139, the actual “Kitty’s Introduction to the X-Men” story, makes a much better one than this. The art is by J.R., Jr. and Bob McCleod.
As I mentioned yesterday, Classic X-Men stopped running back-up stories with #44, but one more, originally scheduled to run in #45, had already been written and drawn. Why they didn’t just go ahead and run it I don’t know, but it eventually saw print nearly two years later in Marvel Fanfare #60, the last issue of that series. It is a continuation of the story from Classic X-Men #44 and deals with Rogue’s teenage years, her angst over her powers and her relationship with Mystique, who balances uneasily between treating Rogue as her daughter and a soldier in her private war.
When I return to this discussion next year, I will provide an overview of the X-Men Classic Omnibus.